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Northern Amber Bumble Bee - Bombus borealis
For definitions and diagrams of bumble bee morphology please see the Montana State Entomology Collection's Bumble Bee Morphology page
. A long-tongued medium-sized bumble bee: queens 18-22 mm in length, workers 13-15 mm. Hair is medium in length and even; Head long, cheek distinctly longer than wide; mid leg basistarsus with back far corner narrowly extended in a spine, hind leg tibia outer surface flat and lacking hair (except fringe) forming a pollen basket; hair of face pale cream-yellow, upperside of head darker yellow; upper side of thorax at front yellow, predominantly black on sides with yellow only within upper half, a black band between the wing bases; T1-4 extensively yellow (sometimes with black hairs intermixed), T5 mostly black. Males 14-16 mm in length; eyes similar in size and shape to eyes of any female bumble bee; antennae long, flagellum nearly 4X length of scape; hair color pattern similar to queens and workers (Colla et al. 2011, Williams et al. 2014).
Across the range, queens reported April to October, workers June to September, males June to October (Williams et al. 2014). In southern Ontario, queens reported May to October, workers June to September, males July to October; earliest record 14 May (Colla and Dumesh 2010, Colla et al. 2011).
Please see the Montana State Entomology Collection's Key to Female Bumble Bees in Montana
. Females told from other Montana Bombus
by a combination of the hind leg outer surface concave and hairless (except fringe) forming pollen basket; cheek longer than wide; face with pale white or yellow hairs, sometimes cloudy-looking with intermixed black hairs; T2-3 with yellow hair, T3-4 yellow or brownish, T5 mostly black.
Resident Year Round
Recorded Montana Distribution
Click the map for additional distribution information.
Across the southern Canadian Provinces and adjacent northern tier of the United States from the Atlantic west to the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, north of the Missouri River in North Dakota and barely reaching extreme northeastern Montana (Williams et al. 2014). Appears to be declining locally in the east in some parts of the range but not others (Colla and Parker 2008, Grixti et al. 2009, Colla et al. 2012).
Hay fields, near and within woodlands (Plath 1934, Colla and Dumesh 2010, Williams et al. 2014). Hobbs (1966b) indicates this species is confined to prairie in southern Alberta.
Feeds on a variety of flowers, including Astragalus, Carduus, Cirsium, Delphinium, Echium, Eupatorium, Glycyrrhiza, Medicago, Melilotus, Onopordum, Prunella, Rubus, Solidago, Symphyotrichum, Symphytum, Trifolium and Vicia (Plath 1934, Hobbs 1966, Colla and Dumesh 2010, Colla et al. 2011, Williams et al. 2014).
Nests underground (Williams et al. 2014), but otherwise little information. Two queens in southern Alberta established nests about 26 June and 6 July, well after other prairie species of Bombus. One first brood contained 24 pupae (cocoons), and only a single brood of workers was produced. The two Alberta colonies produced 34 and 106 males and queens (Hobbs 1966b). Nests sometime invaded my conspecific queens, who attempt to usurp the nest. Males aggregate outside nest entrances in search of mates, but also attempt to copulate with queens while in the nest (Hobbs 1966b, Williams et al. 2014). Parasitism by cuckoo bumble bees not described.
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Colla, S., L. Richardson, and P. Williams. 2011. Bumble bees of the eastern United States. Washington, DC: USDA Forest Service, Pollinator Partnership. 103 p.
- Colla, S.R. and L. Packer. 2008. Evidence for decline in eastern North American bumble bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae), with special focus on Bombus affinis Cresson. Biodiversity Conservation 17: 1379-1391.
- Colla, S.R. and S. Dumesh. 2010. The bumble bees of southern Ontario: notes on natural history and distribution. Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario 141:39-68.
- Colla, S.R., F. Gadallah, L. Richarson, D. Wagner, and L. Gall. 2012. Assessing declines of North American bumble bees (Bombus spp.) using museum specimens. Biodiversity and Conservation 21: 3585-3595.
- Grixti, J.C., L.T. Wong, S.A. Cameron, and C. Favret. 2009. Decline of bumble bees (Bombus) in the North American Midwest. Biological Conservation 142: 75-84.
- Hobbs, G.A. 1966b. Ecology of species of Bombus Latr. (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in southern Alberta. V. Subgenus Subterraneobombus Vogt. Canadian Entomologist 98: 288-294.
- Plath, O.E. 1934. Bumblebees and their ways. New York, NY: Macmillan Company. 201 p.
- Williams, P., R. Thorp, L. Richardson, and S. Colla. 2014. Bumble Bees of North America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 208 p.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
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- Burkle L.A., M.P. Simanonok, J.S. Durney, J.A. Myers, and R.T. Belote. 2019. Wildfires influence abundance, diversity, and intraspecific and interspecific trait variation of native bees and flowering plants across burned and unburned landscapes. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7(252):1-14.
- Dolan, A.C. 2016. Insects associated with Montana's huckleberry (Ericaceae: Vaccinium globulare) plants and the bumble bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) of Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 160 p.
- Dolan, A.C., C.M. Delphia, K.M. O'Neill, and M.A. Ivie. 2017. Bumble Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) of Montana. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 110(2): 129-144.
- Kearns, C.A. and J.D. Thomson. 2001. The Natural History of Bumble Bees. Boulder, CO. University Press of Colorado.
- Reese, E.G., L.A. Burkle, C.M. Delphia, and T. Griswold. 2018. A list of bees from three locations in the Northern Rockies Ecoregion (NRE) of western Montana. Biodiversity Data Journal 6: e27161.
- Simanonok, M. 2018. Plant-pollinator network assembly after wildfire. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 123 p.
- Simanonok, M.P. and L.A. Burkle. 2019. Nesting success of wood-cavity-nesting bees declines with increasing time since wildfire. Ecology and Evolution 9:12436-12445.
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